Conflict happens in all kinds of relationships. It could be a police case if the situation escalates to the point where one partner suffers physical harm. Domestic violence laws aim to protect vulnerable people in relationships. These people include intimate partners, the elderly, and children, from mental, emotional, and physical harm. These laws make threatening or harming an intimate partner, child, or relative illegal. It also makes touching them rudely and aggressively unlawful, even if it does not cause physical harm. Domestic violence laws are strict. They impose severe penalties on anyone guilty, including lengthy prison/jail time and a hefty court fine.
You deserve a fair trial if you face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles. You could obtain a favorable outcome for your case if you hire an aggressive criminal defense attorney to help you with defense. At Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we can also help you understand your charges' legal implications and options. Our legal team of skilled lawyers will not stop until you are happy with your case’s outcome.
The Legal Meaning of Domestic Violence
PC 13700 states that domestic violence is any abuse you commit against a close partner. Abuse happens when you intentionally or recklessly use or threaten to use force against a person with whom you are in an intimate relationship. Any of the following people can be a close partner:
- A former or current spouse.
- A former or current registered partner.
- A former or current cohabitant or intimate live-in partner.
- A person you have a child/children with.
- Someone you were or are in a serious courtship relationship with.
In custody dispute cases, the list of individuals who could be domestic violence victims in family law is even longer. The following people are on the list:
- A defendant’s child.
- A person you have a blood relationship with, Like your sisters, brothers, half-sisters, half-brothers, step-sisters, step-brothers, grandchildren, grandparents, nephews, nieces, uncles, and aunts.
- A person you have a marriage relationship with, like your mother- and father-in-law or sister- and brother-in-law.
Domestic violence is a broad offense that encompasses several crimes with varying penalties and consequences. The prosecution of these crimes is under different laws. They are as follows:
Some crimes are felonies; others are misdemeanors. But most are wobbler crimes. The prosecutor can charge them as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the following:
- Your case facts.
- The severity of the victim's injuries.
- Your criminal history.
Here are some examples of common domestic violence crimes, along with their legal definitions:
Corporal Injury On an Intimate Partner
PC 273 prohibits inflicting corporal punishment on an intimate partner. A corporal injury is any injury that causes physical harm, no matter how minor. The offense is a felony, punishable by four years in prison upon conviction.
Domestic battery is illegal under PC 243(e) (1). Domestic battery occurs when you inflict violence or force on your spouse. You can face charges under this law even without visible injury. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in prison.
Child abuse occurs when a minor is subjected to corporal injury or punishment. It does not, however, include reasonable spanking. Any other cruel punishment or physical injury you inflict on a child can result in child abuse charges. The offense is a wobbler. You could face a maximum of one year in jail if you receive a conviction for a misdemeanor. You could face a prison sentence of three years if you are guilty of a felony.
Child endangerment occurs when you knowingly allow a minor in your custody to suffer danger or endanger a minor's safety, according to PC 273a—for example, running a dangerous drug operation inside your home, where your child lives. Child endangerment is usually a misdemeanor. But if it puts the minor in danger of severe physical harm, the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Child neglect is defined under PC 27. It is the willful failure to provide your child with the necessities of life, like shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. The offense is a misdemeanor. It carries a one-year prison sentence upon conviction.
Abuse of the Elderly
PC 368 defines elder abuse as causing harm to someone aged 65 or older. In this case, 'harm' refers to the following:
- Emotional abuse.
- Physical abuse.
- Financial fraud.
Elder abuse as a misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of a year. But as a felony punishable by four years in prison.
Issuing Criminal Threats
If you threaten another person with severe harm, you could face charges for criminal threats under PC 422. The offense is a wobbler. A misdemeanor conviction results in a year of jail time; a felony sentence results in four years of prison time. Under the Three Strikes Law, a felony sentence for criminal threats is also a strike. It means a strike conviction in your criminal record will affect your punishment for subsequent strikes.
Stalking laws make it illegal to threaten or harass someone. The harassment or threats must be to the extent that the person fears for their or their immediate family's safety. The offense is a wobbler. A misdemeanor sentence carries a one-year prison time, and a felony sentence carries a three-year prison time.
Aggravated trespass occurs under PC 601 when you make criminal threats against a person and then enter the person's home or place of work within thirty days with the intent to carry out the threat. It is also a wobbler offense with a maximum prison sentence of three years.
According to PC 647(j)(4), revenge porn is a cyber-harassment offense in which you willfully distribute another person's sexual images intending to cause emotional distress to them. It is a misdemeanor offense, attracting a one-year jail term.
Punishment For Domestic Violence
Remember that some offenses under domestic violence laws are misdemeanors, and others are felonies. Most are wobbler offenses that prosecutors charge as misdemeanors or felonies. The charges you face depend on the case's circumstances, the offense's gravity, and the defendant's criminal history. The severity of your punishment for a domestic violence offense will depend on the nature of the crime and your criminal history.
Some domestic violence offenses are straight felonies, like PC 273.5, which prohibits inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner. Other crimes that can result in felony charges include:
- Child endangerment.
- Child abuse.
- Elder abuse.
- Criminal threats.
- Aggravated trespass.
A felony sentence for domestic violence carries a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty court fine. It also has serious consequences. They could affect many aspects of your life, like your social and professional life. You must seek competent criminal defense counsel if you face domestic violence charges. You can fight your charges to get a better outcome.
Probation In Place of Jail/Prison Time
Courts typically grant probation in both misdemeanor and felony cases. The judge decides whether to sentence you to jail/prison or probation based on the facts of your case and your criminal record. For example, in the following circumstances, the judge could agree to consider probation instead of incarceration:
- If you are a first offender.
- If the alleged victim’s injury is not severe.
You will almost certainly be sentenced to probation for domestic violence if you face misdemeanor charges. Most felony charges arise when a victim sustains a considerable injury. Even when the judge grants you probation, you will still face other consequences of a domestic violence conviction, like losing your gun rights and immigration issues. You must still serve some time in jail if you face conviction for a felony and the judge grants you probation.
You must follow strict probation conditions while on probation. Violations of these conditions result in severe penalties and possibly additional penalties. Here are some of the probation conditions and conviction consequences for a domestic violence offense:
Mandatory Jail Time
Even when the judge sentences you to probation, you must serve a minimum sentence behind bars following a conviction for domestic violence in certain circumstances. That can happen even if you face misdemeanor charges or if this is your first offense. Your minimum jail sentence could be thirty days.
Payment of Restitution
The judge can order you to pay the victim restitution. The money will cover their medical expenses, counseling and therapy costs, property damage, or lost wages. The court can also order you to pay a certain amount to help support state domestic violence programs.
Participating in a Treatment Program for Batterers
The judge could also order you to join and complete a batterer's counseling and treatment program for at least a year. The program covers both felony and misdemeanor convictions. You undergo treatment instead of or as part of your sentence.
A Damaging Criminal Record
A criminal conviction results in a permanent and damaging criminal record that significantly impacts various aspects of your life. Domestic violence convictions are added to your permanent criminal record. Anyone conducting a background check on you can see your conviction record. That could result in various consequences for you, like:
- You could face challenges finding a suitable job.
- It could impact your efforts to obtain state licensing.
- It can impact your ability to find a suitable neighborhood to rent or lease in.
Impact on Your Custody Rights
Domestic violence convictions result in lost custody rights. Typically, judges deny domestic abusers custody rights during a separation or divorce. However, you can receive visitation rights for your minor children.
A family court does not require a criminal conviction to determine a domestic violence situation. What matters is that you have a criminal conviction for domestic violence dating back five years on your criminal record.
Lost Gun Rights
You could lose your gun rights if you face conviction for a domestic violence crime. Remember that residents of California can only lose their gun rights under certain conditions, including after a felony sentence. You can lose your gun rights permanently if you are guilty of domestic violence.
According to PC 29805, some misdemeanor domestic violence convictions result in suspended gun rights for ten years. A misdemeanor sentence under PC 273.5 results in losing your gun rights for life. Crimes classified as misdemeanor domestic violence under national laws result in permanent loss of gun rights.
If you use a firearm to commit a domestic violence crime, you will permanently lose your gun rights under PC 29800. As a result, if you face charges for felony domestic violence, both state and federal laws affect your gun rights.
You can petition the court to have your gun rights restored if you are guilty of domestic violence. For example, you could regain your gun rights by petitioning for a presidential pardon if you permanently lose them after conviction. But pardons like those are uncommon.
Following a domestic violence arrest, you could receive a restraining order. A restraining order permanently or temporarily prevents you from contacting the victim or their immediate family members. Domestic violence restraining orders are typically only temporary. The victim from a criminal or civil court can obtain it. Following your trial, the judge can decide to lift the order or impose a permanent order.
The victim must not prove that you harmed them to obtain a restraining order. They only need to demonstrate the following:
- You abused or threatened them or their minor child with abuse,
- You are their spouse or a close relative.
You cannot violate a restraining order. That could lead to criminal charges. If the protected person suffered no harm, you would face misdemeanor charges for violating the restraining order. However, if they suffered harm, you could face felony charges.
Domestic violence offenses are classified as aggravated felonies or crimes of moral turpitude. As a result, you can face serious immigration consequences if convicted. If you are an immigrant, you can expect the following effects after a domestic violence conviction:
- Deportation or removal from the U.S.
- Being marked as inadmissible into the U.S.
You need an aggressive criminal defense attorney if you are an immigrant facing domestic violence charges. An experienced attorney can arrange for a plea bargain with the prosecutor so that you can avoid adverse immigration consequences.
Fighting Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence convictions have serious consequences. They can have many consequences, including the following:
- A significant time lost in jail or prison.
- The payment of hefty fines.
- The loss of fundamental rights and privileges, and
- A damaging criminal record that will follow you for years after your conviction.
That is why you should prepare a solid defense for your charges to persuade the judge to reduce or dismiss them. You can do so with the assistance of a tenacious criminal defense attorney. Fortunately, your attorney will have several defense strategies at their disposal. They are as follows:
The Victim’s Injury Was Accidental
Domestic violence laws forbid an intentional infliction of pain or injury on an intimate partner or close family member. You are not guilty of domestic violence if the alleged victim was in pain or sustained an injury by accident. However, for the judge to dismiss your charges, your attorney must demonstrate how the accident occurred.
For example, you tried to enter your house angrily and pushed the door open, knocking your partner onto the floor right behind the door. Even if you were angry, you inadvertently caused their injuries in this case. The jury will not find you guilty if it accepts your defense.
You Are Falsely Accused
In domestic violence cases, false accusations are not uncommon. Partners falsely accuse each other of abuse and neglect for various reasons, including vengeance or jealousy. Your former or current partner can falsely accuse you of assault or battering them. The police must arrest someone if called to a domestic violence situation. They arrest the person accused of violence in most cases, despite a lack of evidence. That protects the victim and anyone else in the area from further harm.
Your lawyer can present evidence and arguments to show why the alleged victim made false accusations against you if you are the victim of false accusations. Knowing their physical injury, you can prove how they sustained it. The court will acquit you if you have compelling evidence against your charges.
You Acted in Self-Defense
In most violent cases, self-defense is an acceptable defense strategy. Some people are thought to act violently not to harm others but to protect themselves or others from imminent danger. However, you must show that you were in imminent danger for the court to accept your defense. Your attorney can persuade the court that you were in grave danger at the time and had no choice but to use reasonable force against the victim to protect yourself or another person.
For example, pushing your partner against a wall so you can flee the house quickly to avoid being battered.
You are not guilty of domestic violence if you successfully demonstrate that you or someone else was in imminent danger and used only reasonable force against the alleged victim.
The Victim’s Injury Is Not A Result of Your Actions
Remember that when the police are called to a domestic violence situation, they respond quickly. The arresting officer could have concluded that you were responsible for your partner's injury and charged you with domestic violence. However, if your partner was injured somewhere else or by something else, you can use that as a defense to have your charges dropped. It is possible that your partner had previously fallen and injured themselves and allowed you to face blame for domestic violence. Proving their injury case will help your case.
Plea bargains can help you compel the prosecutor to drop your charges. Your attorney can seek a plea bargain if the prosecution team has compelling evidence against you. Experienced attorneys negotiate plea bargains quickly to obtain a fair outcome for their client's cases. A domestic violence plea bargain will help you avoid some of the negative impacts of a conviction and the stigma associated with domestic violence. If your lawyer successfully negotiates a plea bargain, you must plead guilty to a less severe offense like criminal trespass (PC 602) or disturbing the peace (PC 415).
Following a successful plea bargain, you could be able to:
- Retain your gun rights.
- Retain your child custody rights.
- Avoid removal and inadmissibility for immigrants.
Another valid legal strategy that your criminal defense attorney can use to help you avoid the severe consequences of a domestic violence conviction is a pretrial diversion or deferred entry of judgment. If the judge agrees to a pretrial diversion, you must complete a batterers' program before the court dismisses all of your charges. The judge will drop your domestic violence charges if you complete the pretrial diversion program. However, you must be eligible for the court to grant a pretrial diversion. The following factors will determine your eligibility:
- The exact domestic violence charges you face.
- Where you reside.
- Your criminal history.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, you should ask your attorney if pretrial diversion for domestic violence cases is available.
Find a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Do you or someone you care about face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles? Domestic violence is a group of serious crimes that the law severely punishes with lengthy jail and prison sentences and hefty court fines. First, you must understand the gravity of your charges, potential legal ramifications, options, and chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. To navigate the complicated legal process and fight your charges, you need the help of an experienced criminal attorney. We have a team of aggressive criminal attorneys at Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer who can help you navigate the legal system and obtain a fair result. We handle all types of domestic violence cases and thus have the necessary skills and experience. Please contact us at 424-600-7164 to learn more about our services.